Thursday, November 12, 2015

10 Reasons Why Macs Still Face Headwinds in the Enterprise

I write this as a Mac fan. I fell in love with the Mac in 1984. We only use Apple technology in our home. But when it comes to the business world, the story is completely different. I have used Macs in a strictly PC world for over a decade and in that time, Apple has made some great strides but there are still reasons why this is difficult.

Some are pointing to IBM's decision to deploy hundreds and thousands of Macs instead of their usual Lenovo Thinkpads (which used to be IBM Thinkpads)as a reason that all companies should consider switching NOW. IBM does claim that they are saving $270 per Mac deployed when all costs are considered. But that is not the whole story nor can it be everyone's story, so here are my observations from my experience. Your mileage may vary.

  1. Lack of vision. IT makes purchasing decisions on PC-only software that requires work-arounds or virtual machines for Mac users. IBM has had years of weaning themselves off Microsoft dependency so making the transition was far easier. Ironically, Microsoft is leading the charge to making more and more of their enterprise software browser-based and platform agnostic which is the way the world is going. Change or die is the current thinking. Hopefully this platform agnostic vision of software becomes widespread.
  2. Some vertical software is core to a business is so complex, so based on legacy code that it is too costly to update or modernize.  However, these types of solutions are at risk from newer upstarts that have a cross platform solution that can more easily embrace a "do business anywhere"  approach that the legacy software cannot do at all, or cannot do effectively.
  3. IT does not look at the total cost of ownership like IBM did. They only look at up front costs. IBM added up the numbers (based on their own experience) and discovered there are huge savings to be had. Fortunately, because Apple is such a big buyer of flash drives, the cost difference for Apple notebooks using solid state drives has dramatically narrowed, and in some cases (hello Surface Book) can be significantly cheaper.
  4. IT only has deployment and management tools that are PC only or have limited Mac functionality. This means that IT cannot take the same assembly line approach with Macs as they do with PC's. IBM invested in deployment tools that fully clone Macs (and they discovered it's much easier than PC's particularly when it came to license codes) so they can have mass deployments even easier than PC's.
  5. IT cannot lock down Macs as they do with PC's so they are always worried about this non-compliant situation. This is partly due to the fact that they may not have effective tools to manage the security of Macs but it's also due to the philosophical difference that Apple expects people to have more control over their computer and makes it easier for the end-user to maintain. Control freaks can't deal with this but IBM has discovered that even with this freedom, support calls are WAY down.
  6. IT doesn't know Mac functionality and still carry outdated biases. Some people in IT still don't know that for years, Macs have been able to support Active Directory, LDAP, access network shares, access SharePoint, have Microsoft Office (including Outlook), use network printers, have built-in encryption, has built-in VPN clients, and natively can connect to an Exchange server for email, calendars, contacts, notes and tasks - without changing their environment. Even if they know the strides Apple has made, they don't know how to use a Mac so why embrace the unknown?
  7. IT knows they won't get fired for using Microsoft. IBM's numbers might look good for a mobile workforce buying highly functional laptops, but will they be the same for a highly structured call center buying $600 Mac Minis over a $299 box PC that is highly locked down and only the most basic features used?
  8. IT standards and policies were written with PC's in mind. Because Macs do some tasks differently, they are automatically non-compliant even though they can easily achieve the goal of the policy. In larger organizations, policies have to be updated to include how Macs can achieve these goals where they differ than a PC.
  9. Poor presentation. IBM took a professional, structured approach to implementing Macs in their business. At first it was more of a "use at your own risk" but when it came to the momentous decision, they looked at the numbers hard and likely made an dispassionate presentation on why it makes corporate sense. Walking into the CIO's office requesting that some user on the second floor wants to use a Mac is probably going to get shot down. This approach requires not only vision casting but hard data. This is what I have always done - justifying the Mac as a tool rather than a personal choice. Thankfully, IBM is providing some hard data and a story that is just too hard to ignore.
  10. Non-standards-compliant implementations. Sloppy and incomplete implementations of software (going from secure to non-secure form), incomplete security certificates and other shortcuts often don't cause any issues when using a PC but can choke a Mac that is expecting things to be done in a compliant way. What IT leaders need to know that doing these things benefits the entire organization. For instance, if a web application uses https:// but it connects to another resource that only uses http://, that is a big security hole. Internet Explorer allows it on a site-by-site basis. Apple's Safari does not because it's bad design and a big risk. Firefox and Chrome allow it by jumping through some hoops. But fixing it benefits everyone in having a more secure environment.
  11. There may be other reasons why Macs struggle in an enterprise but as Tim Cook noted last year, the Bring Your Own Device movement is here to stay and Apple is leveraging that tremendously. That Microsoft's new CEO is embracing this and trying to build products that win on competence in an open market is a testament to that truth.
  12. Hopefully, it won't be too long before your employer gives you the choice or at least finds it acceptable to accommodate your computing platform of choice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snow Leopard Rocks

I love Snow Leopard. Well, almost everything. It's very smooth most of the time and there are some very nice features to it. But there are a couple of niggling things that I've sent feedback to Apple about and you might want to as well. Here are some of the things that I hope they fix in an upcoming update:

Default Calenders in iCal
I use Mail, iCal, and Address Book to connect to our company's Exchange Server. However, when a third party application downloads a .ics file you cannot choose which calendar to add it to. When you open the ics file, it adds the event to the Home calendar and then you have to choose which calendar to add it to.

Why not add a dialog box asking you which calendar you want to assign it to if you have more than one or allow you to choose a default calendar when adding events outside of Mail.

No Address Book Respect
Because I use Mail for work, I get emails from new people that I want to add to my Exchange Contacts list. But when you add a contact for Mail, it goes to your All Contacts general category rather than to my Exchange Contacts category. As a result, I have to launch Address Book and manually add it to Exchange and then delete it from the general category.

If Mail is going to be used in the corporate environment, it should respect corporate assets.

VPN Support through Cisco
One of the things that got me excited about Snow Leopard is the ability to use built in VPN to access a Cisco Concentrator so I wouldn't have to use Cisco's client. When you use Cisco's client and you want to reboot your machine, the client will present a dialog box awaiting user input and will cancel any reboot.

Apple's VPN connection does not do that and it is very fast to connect. The problem with Apple's client is that in the first release of Snow Leopard, using the VPN client would allow for the resolution of internal server names at work. However, when 10.6.1 was released, I lost that functionality. Now I have to add our domain extension to server names just so that it would know which server to connect to. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't.

The funny thing is, when I go back to Cisco's client, I can resolve server names again but it's giving me problems with accessing outside Internet locations.

I think that this would be a small fix on Apple's part that would help a lot of users in the corporate space.

Firmware problems
Quite a few Snow Leopard users have experienced the slowness issue where their Mac will suddenly freeze for 10-30 seconds and then become responsive again. QuickTime movies will often stutter or suddenly stop for a few seconds. It's frustrating for sure. A PRAM reset helped (search Apple's online support for what that means) but a number of users of newer Macs reported that performing an EFI Firmware downgrade helped.

Well I tried it and it worked. No more pauses. Apple then released a new version of the EFI firmware which I tried. Pauses came back. I downgraded again and the pauses have all but literally disappeared. If you have to know, my brand new 15.4" aluminum core MacBook Pro is running version 1.6 and all seems to be fine.

But overall, I still love Snow Leopard. The fan rarely comes on. It just seems so powerful that it brushes off whatever I throw at it. Even launching a virtual machine while watching a movie didn't even cause a hiccup. And this is while driving a second external monitor.

I'm sure that the coming patches will eliminate these few pesky problems and make the Mac experience so much better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New MacBook Pro

My employer was very generous in finally providing me a new MacBook Pro (2.53 MHz, SD slot) for my work computer which has been an amazing yet sometimes puzzling computer.

First of all, it's just beautiful and sleek. When you feel it, touch it, and use it, you feel like it's a high quality device. No wonder Apple make a big deal over the solid core aluminum construction. It looks almost like a piece of art. Rather than the "putting lipstick on a pig approach by many PC assemblers," Apple made it different down to the core (forgive the double entendre).

When you open the lid from sleep, you hear a sight "whoosh" as the fans briefly cycle - you feel like you should hold your breath for a moment because using this thing is a special privilege.

Second - this thing is QUIET!!!! Sorry to shout that. I've done all kinds of things with it and the fans have never come on that I've heard them running. You can't imagine how golden that silence is until you try it.

Third - it's fast. Really fast. Even with running FileVault the computer seems so smooth. Nothing seems to faze it. That should change once I get on our corporate encryption solution which doesn't store your home folder as a single file like Apple does.

Fourth - the screen is very bright. I was able to use it in a vehicle on a bright sunny day. I did pick up a little glare off the glossy monitor (which I love - so deep and lustrous) but it was much more usable than my trusty old laptop (which my son was thrilled to have use of now).

Fifth - the battery life is stunning. While typing out documents in Word on a flight, after 30 minutes the battery monitor still said I had 7:41 remaining. That is a coast to coast flight with room to spare.

Now the bad stuff - occasionally when I hook up a new external monitor or projector, the laptop takes some time to recognize the device. Once or twice, even when hooking up a familiar external monitor, it froze. My old MacBook Pro never did that. I think there is a little bit of Mac OS X sorting that needs to occur. Maybe that's the difference between ATi and NVidia. Good thing I had my Dr. Bott gHead II adapter that saved me in a customer presentation.

In fact, while on a flight back from Texas, I sat next to a guy that had the first 17" solid aluminum MacBook Pro and he had the same issue so he was glad to discover that there was such a thing.

The only other thing was that I wish Apple's Active Directory plug-in was better. In our network environment, even being binded to the network doesn't force me to change my overall password and I still have to enter in my password for certain services on our network. I'm going to try ADmit Mac which supposedly works a lot better. But that is not a hardware issue.

Someone once said that "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." My three year old MacBook Pro was a great joy to use and still kept up with even the new laptops that were being issued. It runs like it has years left in it and still looks great.

But this new one has raised the bar even further. It's like you're in a whole 'nother world or category of computing.

Microsoft Retail Stores

Microsoft has announced that they will be rolling out new retail stores, some in proximity to Apple stores, to create a physical presence in the consumer space. If Microsoft's aim is to copy Apple's, I think that they will be in for a very rough ride.

Apple's brand image is one of high quality which is the reason why they choose "highstreet" locations. The brick and mortar stores reflect their brand and the entire experience is designed to make you feel special. And Apple's stores generate a profit and are self-sustaining. In fact, they were the fastest chain to hit $1 billion in sales.
Microsoft, while running the current Laptop Hunters ad campaign, is creating a low cost, every day commodity brand, more like WalMart, less like Crate & Barrel. So opening stores in high street areas, if that is their intent, is incongruous with the image that they are brandishing. The other issue that Microsoft will have is how are they going to generate revenue at their stores? Their only mass market hardware are accessories. They aren't going to sell millions of Windows 7 at retail - there just isn't enough there to excite consumers. Not only that, but because people view Windows as a commodity, it's very difficult for them to sell a lot at retail like they did with Windows 95 that we perceived as something completely new and different. They spent $6 billion to develop Vista that was commonly panned and uninstalled and with the way Apple positioned Snow Leopard's pricing, it probably affected their ability to charge full tilt

They certainly won't sell hardware, at least not directly because of its OEM customer base. Maybe they will sell all kinds of retail software titles and games. But those dedicated stores pretty much died in the 90's. Apple offers something you can't get anywhere else. Microsoft has to do the same if they want to stand out.

I'm not privy to their strategy but I hope it is a good one. Even though I'm an Apple fan, it's great to see an American business investing in America. Millions of people depend on the Microsoft economy. My concerns for the company are that it may not generate self-sustaining revenue or will it be a drag on the balance sheet. Microsoft's appetite to buy businesses, competition, and invest in all kinds of products that don't pay for themselves will eventually hurt the company.

It is rumored that the only two divisions that generate positive revenue and carries the company are its Windows and Office products. Windows continues to see erosion, particularly in the consumer space hence the ad campaign and announcing stores. Office is also taking heat from Google, to IBM, to iWork, to open source alternatives, to people who stick with the old version because the new version does not offer enough value and the unfamiliar ribbon interface. Now Microsoft is going to offer a free, online, scaled down version of Office. You can bet that for the average home user, this will be more than enough for everyday purposes. I bet advertising is going to have to make up for lost revenue in box sales of Office.

So if more of Microsoft's offerings are moving to the cloud like Google, why are they investing in retail store fronts like Apple?

Maybe they have such a futuristic experience planned that people will want to go into to really be wowed. I just haven't seen that cohesive thinking out of Microsoft lately except when it comes to Bing - and you can't ring that up at the checkout counter.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AppleTV PVR - Please!

We recently bought a nice 42" LCD TV with 1080i resolution and also wanted to replace our aging VCR with new technology to record TV shows just like our old TV, except we want it in HD at the same broadcast resolution.

You know what? We couldn't find anything!

We didn't want something that creates more media to store like a DVD recorder because you lose HD capability with those and a lot of them still have analog tuners in them. Not to mention the problems I've heard with so many devices. And no Blu-ray either even though it might have great resolution - I don't want to invest in media. Period.

What we wanted was something that recorded in HD up to 1080i resolution with a digital tuner AND NO MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION FEES! I don't want pay TiVo, Dish, or anyone else monthly fees. I can look up schedules myself and use an on-screen menu to setup the recording time. 

And I don't want something to hook up to my Macs either - I'm using it too much for other things. I'm looking for a simple appliance with no manual required from a trusted brand. No box building for me.

It has been reported <here> that Apple has filed a patent for a DVR like device. If Apple released an AppleTV that could record TV shows in HD with a 1080 widescreen HD digital tuner WITHOUT subscription fees, I would pony up plastic right now! And it wouldn't bother me if they had to add a couple more buttons to the remote to make it happen. 

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why the iPhone Won't Kill Apple

You go two steps into a mild economic slowdown with Apple predicting a softening of sales and analysts all around are crying "the sky is falling" or the iPhone will kill Apple. Sometimes I get real tired of the nonsense that people write.

First of all, unlike other consumer products such as the XBox, Apple could halt production today, sell off the remaining supply, and walk away from the iPhone and probably generate a profit, or at worst, a negligible loss. That is a great position for Apple to be in. If the iPhone were to suddenly become a disaster, it might hurt the stock short term but it wouldn't take the company down. And Apple doesn't need to dominate the market either. With the way that they have structured the iPhone transaction, they could be very profitable with only a small slice of the market.

Second, Apple has a range of options to respond to market conditions. They could drop the price to the fire sale level and dilute the iPhone brand (never happen) or simply reduce manufacturing orders for now as they gauge demand. In addition, Apple can do what it did during the last downturn - innovate. By continuing to drive value by adding features and functionality to the iPhone, they build demand for it, even if some of that demand is pent up until disposable incomes or discretionary dollars are available. One thing is certain, Apple is not acting like a company whose sales are desperately low.

Third, Apple has a host of delivery channels for the iPhone that have yet to be explored. The business market has not fully embraced it for a number of reasons that I won't go into here. But suffice to say, solving just a few of those issues could open up significant demand in the business sector without having to compromise the device. 

Apple hasn't fully explored its Best Buy relationship either which could realize significant bump in sales just from having the iPhone on display but with iTunes activation, the buying process is simplified. And there are a bunch of high street retailers that Apple could chose from to sell the iPhone.

The international market is barely tapped potential. The release of a 3G model would be a boon to the international market, which has much more density in 3G coverage than in the US. Sometimes, it's a detail like this that can move a product from being a "cool device" to a "must-have device". 

Fourth, the release of the SDK (software development kit) should provide a wealth of third party applications that provide tremendous functionality or entertainment value. While other smart phones can already do this, none have been able to do it with the panache and interface of the iPhone.

Fifth, it's the only device out there that does the music and movie stuff right. Competitive offerings typically are a hodgepodge of services and features that don't work seamlessly together. Most of these boiled down to nothing more than schemes to line the pockets of the wireless providers. Remember the $2.50 song download that could only be done on the phone, not synced from a computer, and the quality of the song was lower than the $0.99 version from iTunes? 

Because of all these things, I don't have any long term doubt about the iPhone even though there might be some short-term softness in demand. However, I think we'll all be surprised when Apple announces their next quarter's results.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Apple + Sony + Yahoo = Merger Schmerger

The blogsphere is all abuzz about Apple buying out Yahoo or Sony as potential targets to spend its warchest of $18 billion or whatever it is now.

Pure bunk I say.

I have yet to see anyone present a viable case where Apple would receive real value for any of those acquisitions. Both of these companies would endure a tremendous amount of culture clashing and probably would end up being worth less than the sum of their parts.

Don't believe me? Go to Yahoo!'s website and see if it reflects the clean minimalism that Apple loves to portray. Not even close. And it's too far away from Apple's core business to make sense. 

The same goes for Sony, although their US website is pretty clean with nice flash. But Sony's business is so diversified that I think it would choke Apple's creativity to work through the multi-layered corporate structure at Sony.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Apple's acquisitions tend to be small companies where they can integrate a product or technology seamlessly into the ecosystem that they are building. That has been Apple's strategy since Steve Jobs came back in 1997. It's more than selling a computer or iPod. It's about a total user experience that pulls the pieces together in a transparent fashion.

Witness Apple's deal with AT&T and the iPhone, then Starbucks, and then those two companies band together to provide valuable Wi-Fi across the country that increases the value proposition of owning an iPhone. It's this kind of thinking that is providing unique and valuable services to customers today as opposed to a hodge-podge of products and services that require a lot of tinkering on the customer side to get to work. And a pile of gobblely-gook to explain.

Right now, Apple can use it's flush bank account to fund research and innovation through an economic downturn, exactly what they did last time. What could the next version of OS X, the next iPhone, or the next digital device do to bring more customers to their base? 

Apple is smart to stick to their guns and buy companies that add value to their core offerings. So let's end this merger talk and continue to root for a decent Exchange client for the iPhone.